In the last few months, acclaimed British writer Mike Carey has managed to become the writer of a monthly Fantastic Four series (“Ultimate Fantastic Four”) and of one of the main X-Men series (“X-Men”), wrap up an acclaimed series at Vertigo (“Lucifer”) on his terms, and still remain one of the most beloved creators in comics. Oh, he’s also released a new novel to a lot of acclaim (“Felix Castor”) and has a movie in production (“Frost Flowers”). To say that life is good for Mike Carey might be an understatement. This September, life will become even better when his relaunch of fan-favorite “Wetworks” hits shelves, returning the beloved DC Comics/Wildstorm series (created by artist Whilce Portacio) to the monthly series grind. CBR News caught up with Carey to learn about “Wetworks: Worldstorm” and also learned about some new projects…but we’ll get to that later.
Mike, thanks for taking time to talk to us. Happy Father’s Day!
Mike Carey: Thanks.
It was really kind of a happy coincidence. I met Jim Lee at one of the Bristol conventions in England, where I pitched an idea to him about werewolves and vampires, which I’d envisioned as a self contained piece. He said, “it’s a cool idea for a story, but how would you like to do it inside a continuity involving vampires and werewolves?” He began to talk about Wetworks, which he’d been thinking about relaunching for some time, which excited me because I’d been a very big fan of the original series. Jim put me in touch with Whilce, and I explained the bare bones of my story idea and how it might function within “Wetworks,” so that’s the seed from which it all grew.
For those fans who didn’t read the book in the nineties, can you bring them up to speed on what it’s all about?
“Wetworks” is an amazing fusion of different genres: action, adventure, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and superheroes. It’s about a special ops team whose members become infected with alien symbiotes which give them invulnerability and certain other powers. After which they redefine their mission and end up fighting against the Night Tribes, the supernatural beings that share our world.
This isn’t a reboot of the original book, as it does follow continuity, but you’ve hinted at some sweeping changes. Where does the book fit in “Wetworks” continuity?
Well, it fits up to a point. Our main protagonist is Jackson Dane, and we meet him after all the events of the “Wetworks” series, so that places our story squarely in the original Wetworks universe. But there will be some surprises for those who read the first series. Genuine surprises, not retconning.
So if you’re like me and read only a few issues of the first series, and vaguely remember the name of Dane, can you jump in without any other knowledge?
Oh yeah. The series doesn’t assume any prior knowledge of the characters and in fact, this Wetworks team that we’ve got here is not the original team. Apart from Dane himself, there are only two characters from the original series – and one of them was a supporting character there rather than a full team member.
That’s a pretty drastic change. Where did the impetus for that change come from? You or Wildstorm?
We wanted to appeal to fans of the original series and not have things be status quo, business as usual, but to put things in a radically different place. And also, when Whilce asked which characters I’d be most interested in writing, apart from Dane it was mostly the women who I found really compelling. Mother One, the cyborg, was someone I wanted to use. And Persephone, who was never part of the team originally, was someone I wanted in there, because she was such a fascinating and ambivalent figure. So it was a combination of wanting to do something that would look different and feel different, while staying true to the original series’ theme, and setting up the logistics of the first arc.
Could you introduce us the main characters? I know you’ve mentioned that some are new, and you don’t want to give too much away, but I’m sure long time fans would love to know about these new additions.
Sure! In a way, the team unfolds like a Chinese box. There’s a core team consisting of Jackson Dane, the leader of the original Wetworks squad: he’s ex-US army, and he has his military rank reinstated in the story. Then there is a woman called Rachel Rhodes – Mother One – who is altered by cybernetics to the point where she is more machine than flesh. She essentially died in the last series when she was shut down and her organic parts ceased functioning. She is in a very bad way, and bringing her back to life, if you can call it that, is a big part of our initial story arc. Then we have a vampire, called Persephone or Red, who really has no interest at all in being with the team, but joins for very pragmatic reasons, as Dane makes an offer she can’t refuse. We have a guy called Ab-Death, an artificial lifeform who was grown for reasons unknown and from materials unknown, and who describes himself as an amphibian, because he can be either alive or dead. And finally, we have a werewolf cop from an alternate universe, named Ashe.
Sounds like a very Mike Carey cast of characters, except for the fact that no one has fire-based powers.
[laughs] But like I said, that’s just the core cast. Then we have a number of supporting characters, technical and medical liaisons who work around the team. We have a technician named Linda Bethell and a doctor named Styles, who have an important role, and as we learn later on, Dane has a lot of contacts from when he was working in covert ops. Wetworks is teams within teams.
From what you’ve said this sounds like a far more action-heavy book than any of your other books.
You’ve done horror and the supernatural before, but always imbued them with a sense of purpose and a lot of depth, eschewing the action. So is this the start of action hero Carey?
It is much more of a slam-bang action book. We tried to make it appealing on an intellectual level, but there aren’t weighty themes going on beneath the action. For the first two arcs there’s a mystery, with a big open question about what the villain is doing and what’s really at stake, with the answers doled out slowly. It’s a mystery thriller. Then we establish an alternate world, Thea Mater, like a parallel Earth, moving alongside us through the Bleed, and we play some interesting games with how that world works.
You’ve mentioned before that you’ve plotted out three arcs, and completed them this year, so how long can we expect to see you on the book?
The stories I’ve written occupy most of a year.
And after that? No “Wetworks” in the foreseeable future?
I don’t know about that. I couldn’t possibly comment. It depends how things go. Whilce would like to write some himself. We were obviously deeply involved together in plotting these issues, but I think Whilce would like to tell some of his own stories.
Speaking of Whilce, talk about working with him on this book. These characters are his babies, after all, so that’s got to be quite a different experience for you.
It was great. Obviously he has very clear definitions of the core Wetworks cast in his mind, and that was a huge asset, but at the same time he wasn’t at all possessive or defensive. He was full of ideas and we had some great jam sessions. We had a lot of fun.
I’ve got “Faker,” the six-part mini-series with Jock that we’ve discussed previously. It’s horror, but in a more visceral and less supernatural vein than I’ve done before. There are no fantastic elements: it’s more intimate and gruesome horror. I’m also writing the first few issues of a monthly that will debut at the end of this year or beginning of next year, tentatively titled “Crossing Midnight,” though it may end up titled something entirely different. It’s more folklore based, whereas “Lucifer” was more mythologically based.
But is it perhaps similar to “Lucifer” in that you have the ending in mind already, as you did when you started “Lucifer?”
Umm, it’s a little more open-ended than “Lucifer,” but yes, it will ultimately wrap up in a neat way with all loose ends resolved.
And on the topic of endings, “Lucifer” wraps up next month. You’ve spent six years writing this book and it really put you on the map. What’s it like to be done with it after all this time?
It’s weird. I’m already adjusting to life without “Lucifer.” I wrote the last script four months ago, but whenever I look at the latest issue when it comes in, I feel a kind of regret for the stories we didn’t tell. We finished the Lucifer story in the way we wanted to, but what I discovered in writing a monthly is that every story you tell opens up infinite possibilities and closes down some as well. So we had this constant experience of doors opening and closing with each story. There are characters I think that I would have liked to move forward a little further: the Centuars, Guadium, and Spera. It’s bittersweet. I’m proud of bringing the story to its conclusion. I look back at the 75 issues, plus the three-issue mini-series, so 78 issues, with an enormous sense of satisfaction, but at the same time, there’s always some regret.
But does it have to be the end of “Lucifer?” You’ve done a one-shot previously; you could do a mini-series or an original graphic novel.
I think it could continue that way and I’d love to go back to do that, but most definitely not with Lucifer as the main character. I think his story reaches a definite ending from which there is no going forward, but I’d love to write about Elaine, Jill Presto and Gaudium & Spera. We talked a long time ago about a Mazikeen mini-series and came up with ideas, but for various reasons that never actually happened.
You also have a new graphic novel project with John Bolton coming out soon. Can you tell us about that?
Sure, it’s called “God Save The Queen” and it’s a Sandman Presents OGN. It uses the Faerie characters from “Sandman,” Titania, Oberon, Puck, Nuala and Cluracan. It has a huge cast. The protagonist is not from Faerie – she’s a mortal girl living in North London, who falls in with some very degenerate and reprobate fairy junkies living in London. It’s revealed later on that she’s a changeling, so she has one Faerie parent, but she doesn’t know if it’s her mother or her father. These guys get high on a drug called Red Horse, a mixture of human blood and heroin-
Wait. This isn’t based on your own experiences, is it?
[laughs] Umm. [pause] not so much. This character, Linda, her story is a coming of age tale with the huge backdrop of a coup in the realm of Faerie. It’ll be pretty exciting and should be out in November or January.
It’s been great! I love writing prose, as I’ve said in previous interviews, because of the enormous sense of power you get from being, say, in the middle of writing chapter 20 and still being able to make a change in chapter 3 if you’re inspired. You can’t do that in comics. The lead time is too short. I love writing the Castor novels. I’m working on the third one, and the reception to “The Devil You Know” has been really good. It’ll debut in America next April.
Might Castor be seen in other media or is he strictly tied to books right now?
The television rights have been bought by a television company called Bentley, who produce “Midsomer Murders,” which I hear is very popular in the U.S. They’re currently approaching the networks with the idea of turning “The Devil You Know” into a two part TV movie, each part running 90 minutes, back to back, which is a nice way to do it.
You know who would be perfect to play Castor?
Dare I ask who?
Gahhhh [and other assorted British sounds of pain].
You know who would be even better? Jonah Weiland, CBR Executive Producer.
That I can see. Call Hollywood!
With the success of the first novel, what are the plans for the series of novels? How long can it go?
Without any effort at all, I’ve got ideas that would take me up to book six in the series and I would be aiming to have a big revelation and a big climax in book six that could be a logical end point. But there would still be stories to tell. The world that Castor lives in is full of potential on all sorts of levels.
Being the multi-media darling that you are, you’ve got the film “Frost Flowers” in pre-production. How’s that progressing?
The filming starts in September. I don’t know how long these things take, but they always take longer than you want. I’ve had a couple of meetings in the past month or so with the producer Peter Maggi and director Andrea Vecchiato, and we’ve tweaked the screenplay a bit, mainly concentrating on the male lead, David, and his role in the second half of the film. We shifted the emphasis a bit and I’m pleased with the result. More to the point, so are they. There’s a sense that we’re exactly where we want to be now, and we’re moving inexorably towards actually doing it. That’s an exciting feeling.
Holly Hunter is still lead actress, right?
You help her practice her lines?
[laughs] No, I haven’t met her yet.
Wrapping things up, are we going to see you at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year?
Sadly, no, but definitely in 2007. I’m also going to try to attend the New York convention earlier in ’07.
I remember, a couple of a years ago, you told me how you couldn’t imagine working on more than one comic book a month. If you knew what you knew now, and how capable you were of it, what would you go back and tell that younger Mike Carey?
Oh yeah, I remember him. I’d tell him that the only limits in this game are the ones you impose on yourself – and that an Amstrad PCW is a word processor in the same way that an ice cube is a cooling system…